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Arrests change dynamics of East Cavan by-election
East Cavan, where Sinn Féin and the IPP have been campaigning for a vacant seat despite being united against conscription Photo: © 2000 by Cartography Associates

Arrests change dynamics of East Cavan by-election

Cootehill, 20 May 1918 - The mass arrest and deportation of Sinn Féin leaders has had a significant impact on the race to fill the vacant Westminster parliamentary seat for East Cavan.

One of the candidates for the position, Arthur Griffith – a founder of Sinn Féin and editor of Nationality – is among the 73 men and women picked up by the police and military authorities in recent days, and the wave of public support for those arrested is certain to see him to victory.

Yesterday, a Sinn Féin demonstration at Cootehill attracted a crowd of 15,000 people from almost every parish in Co. Cavan, as well as surrounding districts. The meeting had been planned in advance as an election rally in support of Griffith and was to be addressed by Sinn Féin President, Éamon de Valera, who was also arrested earlier this week.

Despite their absence, it was decided to press ahead with the event and the turnout was symptomatic of the popular nationalist feeling about the recent turn of events.

The East Cavan by-election appeared set to end the nationalist unity that has been evident throughout the recent conscription crisis. The decision of Sinn Féin to press Griffith’s candidacy was denounced by the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) MP John O’Connor as ‘nothing short of an outrage at a time when absolute unity was imperative’.

Striking a similar note was the IPP-supporting Freeman’s Journal which described the prospect of a contest in the constituency as an ‘unmitigated disaster’.

‘One wonders if Mr de Valera ... would feel either happy or confident at the head of an army one-half of which in the lull that precedes the final battle was busily employed in turning its rifles on the other half.’

These calls for unity have not been met with much success and the campaign is being conducted in every town, village and hamlet in the East Cavan constituency where rival flags have been prominently displayed.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.